“Are you ready for Christmas?” Are you ready for that question? For years I have wondered how best to respond to it. Often my answer has been, “If you mean, ‘Have I done all my Christmas gift shopping or have I baked six varieties of cookies’, no. But if you’re asking about my heart preparation, I’m getting there.”
“Chances are you also have wondered at some point how to make Christmas truly meaningful for yourself, your family or your church. One thing I have found helpful is to recover the practice of Advent. This season of the Christian calendar (which includes the four Sundays prior to Christmas) has a theme of anticipation. We retell the Old Testament stories and prophecies, anticipating with God’s people of old the entrance into our world of the Messiah. We remind ourselves to look for his entrance into our lives and our world on a daily basis. And we anticipate his second advent (the word means “coming”), his final entrance into our world to set things right and bring everything under his sovereign Lordship. Advent as a season reminds us to make the necessary preparation so that we do not miss his entrance.
“There is a difference between preparation and celebration, between Advent and Christmas. Advent as preparation and not celebration is a counter-cultural practice. One pastor recognized that his congregation had no conception of Advent, and to try to introduce it in the December weeks would upset long-cherished traditions. So he introduced themes of Advent in November and then focused on the incarnation in December.”